President Obama tonight made the startling claim that he had ”approved fewer regulations in the first three years of my presidency than my Republican predecessor did in his.” This claim is more than a little bit misleading. According to the Government Accountability Office, it is true that fewer total rules were issued during this Administration than during that of George W. Bush. But that counts many administrative actions of no real significance. When you look at major rules – those with $100 million or more in economic impact, a very different picture emerges. Some 189 of these costly rules have been adopted in the past three years, compared to 153 during George Bush’s first three years. That’s a 23 percent increase in red tape. So much for regulatory restraint.

This by the way, isn’t the first time that the Obama Administration has been caught playing with the numbers on regulation. As reported by last year, Cass Sunstein, the president’s “regulatory czar,” presented a “distorted view” of this president’s regulatory record compared to his predecessor. In fact, the organization’s report concluded (citing research by Heritage among others) the Obama Administration has imposed far more in costs on the country than his precedessor had at the same point in his tenure.

The President also cited efforts to reduce unnecessary regulation, claiming some 500 reforms under his belt. That would be welcome news, if true, but the relief provided by these moves is only a small sliver of the new costs imposed. Virtually none are even considered “major.”

No one wants to abolish all regulation. But, as the president said again tonight, many are unnecessary and too costly. But the president has added to, not reduced, the problem.

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